Beyond continuationism: Climate change, economic growth, and the future of world (dis)order

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

An apocalyptic zeitgeist infuses global life, yet this is only minimally reflected in International Relations (IR) debates about the future of world order and implications of climate change. Instead, most approaches within these literatures follow what I call a “continuationist” bias, which assumes that past trends of economic growth and inter-capitalist competition will continue indefinitely into the future. I identify three key reasons for this assumption: 1) a lack of engagement with evidence that meeting the Paris Agreement targets is incompatible with continuous economic growth; 2) an underestimation of the possibility that failure to meet these targets will unleash irreversible tipping points in the earth system, and 3) limited consideration of the ways climate change will converge with economic stagnation, financial instability, and food system vulnerabilities to intensify systemic risks to the global economy in the near-term and especially later this century. I argue that IR scholars should therefore explore the potential for ‘post-growth’ world orders to stabilize the climate system, consider how world order may adapt to a three or four degree world if Paris Agreement targets are exceeded, and investigate the possible dynamics of global ‘collapse’ in case runaway climate change overwhelms collective adaptation capacities during this century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
JournalCambridge Review of International Affairs
Early online date12 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Oct 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • economic growth
  • post-growth conditions
  • Climate Crisis


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